2015: Nearly 2,000 rape kits untested in Portland

More than half of the rape kits collected in Portland haven't been tested. Police hope federal funds will help them test every one – and get justice for victims.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- ​It's a tough subject to talk about. Every two minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in the U.S., according to the Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey. And only 32 percent of victims report the attack.

To make matters worse, when victims go to a hospital for a forensic medical exam, the numbers show it's more than likely that evidence will sit on a police shelf and never be sent to a crime lab.

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Across the country, the government estimates there are hundreds of thousands of these completed "rape kits," as they're commonly called, just sitting on police or crime lab shelves, untested.

Now there's a national movement to count them up and test every single last one.

The evidence could convict serial rapists, free innocent people imprisoned for assaults, and most importantly, bring justice for rape victims.

Surviving the crime, only to have the evidence untested

"It's a picture in my mind I will never be able to get rid of," said Danielle Tudor. The Portland mom and small business owner was raped when she was just a senior in high school in 1979. ​

"He basically was hunting me down in my own home," she said.

Richard Gillmore, known as Portland's "Jogger Rapist" because he picked his victims while running past their homes, had broken in while Tudor was alone.

Gillmore beat her and took her virginity. He was arrested seven years later and has been in prison ever since. But because of the statute of limitations, Gillmore was only tried for one of the nine rapes he admitted to.

Tudor was one of the victims who did not get justice, despite reporting the rape to police.

"I had to undergo a rape kit examination, which was just as horrendous and as invading as the rape itself," Tudor said.

Looking at the kit, one can only imagine. At the hospital or a clinic, only special sexual assault nurses do the exams, and they last from four to six hours. Nurses swab for blood, DNA and skin cells. They bag up clothing and collect hair or fibers left behind. It's bundled up and sent to police.

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But a KGW Investigation found that 61 percent of rape kits sit on evidence shelves and are never tested by Portland police. They just recently counted them up, and found 1,931 untested kits from as far back as 1985.

"If a rape victim is courageous enough to do that exam, I think we owe it to them to process it and give them a chance at justice," Tudor said.

As for Tudor's rape kit, she still doesn't know if it's ever been tested.

The 2015 review by Portland police shows in the last 30 years, sex assault victims have turned in 3,835 rape kits as evidence. Only 1,506 were ever submitted to a lab. That's only 39 percent.

Police say there are many reasons rape kits aren't tested: A victim completes a rape kit, but doesn't file a police report. They file a police report, but then won't cooperate with the investigation. The suspect's identity is already known, and evidence isn't needed for prosecution.

Or the investigator decides that no crime was committed.


Moving forward by looking back

"Most agencies look back at how they did something and say, 'Ugh,'" said Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson. "We didn't do it that way for X amount of years. So to move forward we have to go backwards." ​

And that's what Portland police are doing.

In March, Congress approved $41 million be spent on zeroing out the national rape kit backlog. This week, Portland police are applying for $2 million of that to test every single one of those 1,931 kits they have. Testing just one costs about $1,000, according to national estimates.

​"In many cases, we may not find anything new," Simpson said. "We may not learn anything new. But in other cases the evidence in that kit may lead to the identity of a suspect. This is really about the victims, it's really about making sure we're doing everything we can to identify suspects and to make sure our victims get justice."

Survivors like Danielle Tudor commend this new push and hope no rape kit ever goes untested again, for any reason.

"That is the goal, and it has to be the goal of getting caught up and then you have to stay caught up, that has to be the goal," she said.

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